Breaking in 2016 With an easy Desk Makeover!

In: Home Decor Tutorials
mint green antiqued desk with plank top.

Desk Makeover by Removing old Veneer.

So, I’ve said it before, after a long break, I’m getting back on track with the house.  Easing into 2016 of course, no added pressure necessary.  Therefore, I’m starting out helping a friend.

Wait for it… You should be hearing “Lean on Me” fading in from somewhere far away.

Megan has been fixing up her 100 year old Craftsman Bungalow for the past 6 months or so getting ready to sell it.  After spending a fun afternoon checking out every nook and cranny, brainstorming some money-saving ideas, and picking out paint colors, (I cannot stress enough, make sure your grays do not have any blue in them or you end up with Purple Nurple walls), I stumbled upon this “vanity” sitting all alone in her bathroom.  I air quote “vanity” because it’s really a small desk that she had repurposed to use in the bathroom.

The shape of the desk is just adorable, cute little scroll details on the legs and chunky drawers, but the finish was so UGLY!  It had been covered in a light veneer with a badly stained top from years of make-up mishaps, cup rings and spilled nail polish.  It was screaming for my help!

Yard sale desk covered with veneer 

“Help me!  I’m so ugly, please make me pretty again!”  Okay, so it’s unlikely a piece of furniture was screaming at me, but I swear I could feel it’s pain.

So, long story short- I loaded that ugly duckling into my van and trucked it home for a much needed makeover.  Fast forward about six months to today….

Okay, okay, so yes, Megan should have fired me.  Who takes six months to refinish a little desk?  Well, I do!  Life happens, kids happen, dance lessons, horseback riding, tumbling, Girl scouts… They all HAPPEN!

With that said, it’s finished now and I must say…It’s GORGEOUS!

Let me show you how I did it so the next time you pass a yard sale, you are confident that wasting a pair of break pads in an effort to not miss a good piece of furniture, was all worth it.

Creating a new finish from an old disaster.

Step 1:  Get rid of the ugly.

Just like a weathered old lady, a good peel can’t do anymore damage, right?  The veneer top had to go.  The sides were peeling and the top was all grimy and stained.  To peel off veneer, sometimes all it takes is pulling it off where it’s loose.  Other times, it’s a bit more complicated.  Like this time.

removing veneer from desk top




Removing veneer from an old desk

Using a straight edge putty knife, I would hammer the putty knife under the edges, loosening as I went and peeling up.  I choose a plastic putty knife because the veneer was so tight, I didn’t want to accidentally gouge the wood.  However, on the edges, I carefully used a chisel to take some of it off after applying a hot iron to the area, loosening the glue.

removing veneer from an old desk

As for the base of the piece.  I just left the veneer on.  More on that later.


Step 2:  Sanding

I always like sanding.  Sure, it’s a dirty job, but sometimes that’s the fun part.  Just for the top, I started out using 80 grit sand paper, then 180, and finished off with 220 for a smooth, baby-butt texture.  Using the 220, I gave the entire base a light sanding to prepare the surface for paint.

desk with veneer removed after sanding

Desk with veneer removed after sanding

Diet Dr. Pepper Photo Bomb.

Step 3:  Weenie Greenie.

Megan decided that she really like the muted green, antiqued look with a stained top.  I completely agreed and was super happy because I already had green oops paint and some left over glaze.  WooHoo!

I cleaned the surface with a sticky tack cloth to make sure all of the dust from sanding was gone.  The gave the entire base two coats of a light, sage-like green.  Like I said before, I don’t know the color, it was a HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams mis-tint that I bought at Lowes for $8 with a $10 rebate.  They actually paid me $2 to take this gallon of paint home.  Nice huh?

desk after sanding painted a mint green with a wood top

Old desk painted a mint green after veneer removed with a plank top.


Step 4:  Let me make this crystal clear.

If you plan on doing an antiqued finish using glaze, it’s the same as using chalk paint.  You have to put a clear coat on before the glaze.  Chalk paint you need to do a coat of clear wax before the dark wax other wise it soaks into the paint.  Not the look you want.  I gave the entire piece a nice coat of clear top coat.  I happened to have a small can left over from doing my cabinets, but any kind of clear top coat will do.  Mine was glossy and it worked great.

Step 5:  Aged like a fine glazed donut.

Now it’s time to make it all kinds of gorgeous.  This is just the way I do it, you can do it however it works for you, but here is my technique.  I paint an entire area with the glaze using a cheap-o foam brush.  Let it sit for about a minute.  Then using some old rags, cut up t-shirts, whatever I happen to have nearby, I carefully start removing the glaze layer by layer until I get the look I’m going for.  The awesome thing about glaze is that it is super forgiving and if you need more, just add it it.  Need less, a little spit goes a long way.  Gross, but effective.

painting glaze onto mint green desk for antique finish



Step 6: Top it off

Staining.  Such a simple thing that makes such a huge impact.  To prepare the wood to take stain, I always recommend wiping it down with water first.  Let the water sit for a few minutes to prepare the wood to accept the stain.  This does the exact same thing that expensive wood conditioner does and guess what…It’s free!  I used an old sock from the sock graveyard to apply the stain and another to wipe off the excess.  You MUST wipe off the excess otherwise you will be left with a gummy mess.  I used Minwax Provincial on the top here and the knobs.  It’s my fave.

Plank desk top stained with Minwax Provincial



Step 7:  Protect it.

After letting that stain cure at least overnight, I applied a few coats of polyurethane to protect that gorgeous finish.  I prefer Minwax Wipe-On Poly in satin.  It’s oil based, so it’s great for stained wood and you don’t have to worry about it yellowing.  The satin just keeps that antiqued feeling instead of a high-shine gloss.  I don’t actually wipe-on the poly like the name and/or instructions imply…  Where is the fun in that?  I pour an “S” shape over the area I’m covering and then use a synthetic poly brush to product long, even strokes.  GO SLOW! You don’t want streaks or air bubbles.  Don’t skimp on the brush either, you’ll be so happy you spent that extra couple of bucks when you see the finished product.  Also, don’t forget to sand lightly between coats.  Not only does this make the texture super smooth, it also makes the protective coat that much stronger because it adheres better to the lower coats.

So… Here it is!  I hope she likes it… Or maybe I don’t .  I have the perfect spot for it!mint green antiqued desk with plank top.


mint green antiqued desk with plank top.



mint green antiqued desk with plank top.




Yard sale desk covered with veneer





mint green antiqued desk with plank top.